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May 5, 2005

San Joaquin Air District and Public Health Advocates Set Clean Air Rule Deadlines

New regulations will control particulate matter sources

Contacts

George Torgun or Deborah Reames, Earthjustice 510-550-6700

Kevin Hamilton, MAHA 559-459-1585

Rey Leon, LIF 559-241-6572

Kevin Hall, Sierra Club 559-487-4316

Fresno, CA

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District today announced a settlement that will ensure the adoption of four new air pollution control measures in the Valley to control particulate matter air pollution by the end of 2005.

The measures are required under the District’s federally-approved 2003 cleanup plan for particulate matter. Under the plan, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May 2004, these control measures should have been adopted last year but the district missed the deadlines. The 2003 cleanup plan was the result of prior litigation by the same organizations after years of inaction by the District and EPA.

The District, recognizing its legal liability for failing to promulgate these rules by the deadlines required by its own plan, and the federal Clean Air Act, agreed to be bound by a court-endorsed consent decree, filed today along with the lawsuit. The consent decree will not be ordered by the Court pending a 45-day period within which the Justice Department may submit comments on its terms, but neither the groups bringing this suit nor the District expect the Department to have any concerns.

"Through this settlement, the residents of the San Joaquin Valley will have an enforceable court order in place; should the Air District miss the deadlines again, it would be subject to contempt of court," said Deborah Reames an attorney with Earthjustice who is representing the clean air advocates. The coalition includes Latino Issues Forum, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, and Sierra Club.

The Valley’s air fails to meet minimum standards for airborne fine particulate matter or "PM-10" set by EPA to protect public health, recording more than 80 violations of that standard between 1999 and 2001. The Valley contains 8 of the 19 most severely polluted counties for PM-10 in the country. EPA has classified the PM-10 pollution problem in the Valley as "serious," and the California Air Resources Board estimates that approximately 1,300 Valley residents die prematurely from long-term exposure to particulates every year. The Valley’s most vulnerable residents include children, the elderly, and persons already suffering from respiratory ailments.

Regulations that will effected by this settlement include:

Rule Issue

#4307 - Small boilers, steam generators, process heaters

#4309 - Commercial dryers

#4903 - Residential space heaters

[New] - Industrial, commercial, institutional water heaters

"These rules will make a big difference in cleaning up air pollution in the Valley," said Rey Leon of Latino Issues Forum in Fresno. "Families in the Central Valley deserve clean air, not more excuses."

Kevin Hall of the Sierra Club observed, "First the Air District approves a clean-up plan riddled with loopholes and delays, and then they fail to deliver on the handful of rules they actually committed to enacting. Valley residents deserve better from the agency that is mandated to protect public health and clean our air. Now they will be legally responsible to clean the air with a court watching the process."

Kevin Hamilton, a respiratory therapist and member of Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. "Decades of missed deadlines and foot dragging by the district has lead to dramatic increases in respiratory illness in the Valley. Thankfully, a citizen clean air movement is now keeping the district on track and holding them to their promises."

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